CPP Tailors Its Tactics to Rural Voters

While the Human Rights Party held forums and the Sam Rainsy Party aimed to bolster its local branches between July and Sep­tember, CPP lawmakers were more active in meeting voters, distributing rice, assessing road conditions and providing material as­sistance, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) said yesterday.

Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said lawmakers’ total activity decreased 7 percent over the period compared to the previous three months, but the CPP was still more active in the field than other parties, according to a report released by Comfrel on Friday.

The report found that 81 out of the National Assembly’s 123 lawmakers made field visits between July and September. Fifty-five CPP members of Parliament met with voters 237 times, compared with 19 SRP lawmakers making 117 visits and 143 visits by three HRP lawmakers. Two Norodom Ranariddh Party lawmakers made two visits, and two Funcinpec lawmakers made 20 visits.

“The HRP increased its activity most in the period; it organized forums and discussions and strengthened its networks. The SRP wrote intervention letters and strengthened its local branches. The CPP was giving out rice, looking at roads and offering material assistance,” Mr Panha said.

He added that the CPP is particularly good at tapping into the needs of rural voters.

“According to our workshops on voter voices, many people still ask for basic needs in remote places,” he said. “Voters are also concerned with land conflicts and security, for instance, and the CPP can respond to those [needs] despite a lack of transparency. The CPP always uses this kind of response.”

Indeed, the ruling CPP party is well known for its acts of generosity in rural areas, which are frequently televised. Most recently ruling party lawmakers were seen making trips to areas that had been affected by severe flooding to donate rice and other emergency supplies.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that he had not read the report, but responded by saying that the CPP focuses on a “grassroots approach.”

“We share from the top down,” he said. “Lawmakers go out to the field every weekend to share not only experience, but hope together. That’s CPP culture. Opposition parties make waves against the prime minister.”

According to Mr Siphan, field visits are taken “very seriously.”

But SRP spokesman Yim Sovann, who also said he had not seen the report, questioned the figures. “Some SRP lawmakers didn’t send their activity to Comfrel on time,” he said.

“We think only about 30 percent of our activity was noticed by Comfrel, while the other activity they did no report,” Mr Sovann said, adding that it would be difficult to compare the number of field visits because the CPP has more lawmakers.

HRP spokesman Pol Ham said the party felt the report accurately reflected its outreach efforts.

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia (Nicfec), said it was no surprise that the CPP were leading the board.

“The have many lawmakers and more property than the other parties,” he said, “so it’s possible for them to go and make more visits than any other party. They have more of a presence.”

With a busy election year approaching-Senate elections are scheduled for Jan 29, and commune elections are set for June 3-Mr Panha said the SRP is going to have to step up its activities if it wants to make more of an impact.

“The activity of all parties is expected to increase,” he said, “and I hope the SRP increases its activity in the field.”



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